TENNIS

Saudi Arabia ‘preparing major step forward in women’s tennis circuit as part of deal involving WTA’

ADVERTISEMENT

Saudi Arabia is ‘preparing a major breakthrough in women’s tennis by hosting a WTA Tour event in the Gulf state’ – as it seeks to expand its reach following the controversial launch of the LIV Golf Series as well as profiles in F1 and in football

  • The WTA would have refused to rule out a possible link with Saudi Arabia
  • Gulf state comes under fire for alleged human rights abuses
  • China was recently criticized by the WTA for the treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai

ADVERTISEMENT

Saudi Arabia are reportedly looking to continue their controversial efforts to expand their sporting reach as they aim for a deal involving women’s tennis.

The nation has invested heavily in the sport in recent years, with the controversial £2billion LIV golf series as well as hosting Formula 1 grand prix and various football projects.

According to the Telegraph, the Women’s Tennis Association declined to rule out a potential link to the state when contacted.

A WTA spokesperson confirmed to the publication that: “We have received inquiries from Saudi Arabia regarding interest in hosting a WTA event in the region.

“As a global organization, we are always interested and welcome inquiries received from anywhere in the world and we seriously consider what each opportunity can bring. [but] we have not entered into formal negotiations.

The Saudis have reportedly been seeking a deal on the men’s ATP Tour for the past five years, although they have been pushed back in their approaches and now appear to be changing tact.

However, the WTA does not hold the same financial security as its equivalent men’s tour, especially after taking a tough moral stance against China.

The WTA Tour refused to rule out a controversial link with Saudi Arabia in the future

Chief executive Steve Simon had spoken out against China following the apparent silence of women’s tennis star Peng Shuai last year, but admirable principles have hampered access to a key source of funding for the organization.

Saudi Arabia has also made moves in the past to offer eye-watering sums of money to star players to play in exhibition matches.

Former UK and world No 1 Andy Murray was one of many top players to reject an offer, turning down £1.5million to play in the country due to human rights concerns in the Gulf State.

The WTA has already taken strong moral stances on nation states, criticizing China for the alleged silence of tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured)

The WTA has already taken strong moral stances on nation states, criticizing China for the alleged silence of tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured)

Saudi Arabia has been criticized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for trying to bolster their country’s reputation by hosting global sporting events, a practice known as “sportswashing”.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia while women’s rights also lag behind, while journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who had frequently criticized the state’s royal family, was brutally murdered at the Saudi Embassy Saudi Arabia in Istanbul in 2018.

Murray has long been an advocate for gay rights and women’s rights and his representative Matt Gentry says the Scot has no interest in playing in Saudi Arabia because of the country’s human rights record .

Andy Murray previously rejected offers of money from the Saudi regime to play

Andy Murray previously rejected offers of money from the Saudi regime to play

“He refused stuff in Arabia; I don’t think he’ll play there just because of what happened,’ Gentry told the podcast. Sports Unlocked back in January.

“If he is very attached to something, he will call it with pleasure. He is not afraid to express his opinion.

“They did a few exhibition matches where they paid exorbitant amounts of money to bring players there and he just wasn’t interested.”

“To show up and play a game, if you’re a former world No. 1 player, in the Middle East, you could potentially make $1-2 million.

“It’s for the top players, the big names in the world, and I think golf is pretty similar.”

Advertising

ADVERTISEMENT